Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Building a family

I must confess to being something of a house and home programme buff. It's probably something to do with being so focussed on house buying and selling over the last year or so. But I'm beginning to wonder whether there are two kinds of people who buy houses; me on one side and everyone else on the other. Because the people who appear in the (mainly Channel 4) lifestyle programmes appear to inhabit a different universe to my humble self. Take Relocation, relocation on Channel 4 tonight. It featured a thirty-something couple who had £1.4 million to spend on a house and wedding venue. This was followed by Grand Designs, where a cutting-edge architect and his wife decided to build a 'passive' eco house, using a system of exterior tiling more usually encountered in medieval Spain. So, I I going wrong somewhere? Are my aspirations to sand down the banisters and give the hall a coat of Farrow and Ball's House White simply not ambitious enough? Should I be sourcing my window blinds from a sustainable hardwood forest in Estonia rather than B and Q? And would it help if I shaved off my (now) shoulder length hair to make me look more like a participant in one of the above-mentioned programmes?

One curious aspect of all these programs is the incidence of pregnancy. The couple buy a tumbledown house on a desirable plot, then proceed to knock it down and resign themselves to living on site in a draughty caravan for a year and a half whilst the new house goes up. And what happens? Three months into the project, they announce to the presenter that a baby is on the way. The poor child is eventually born in said caravan and lives its first few months in an unheated box, surrounded by camping equipment and primus stoves. What's happening here? Is the act of building/purchase an aphrodisiac in itself? Or is it just a case of poor planning by folk who otherwise appear to be able to plan a house build down to the last nail? Let's face it, these programmes invariably feature a planning officer somewhere along the way. Perhaps that individual could draw up a list of 'to dos' that includes the advice 'attempt to avoid getting pregnant if you are likely to be involved in bricklaying, humping RSJs or digging drains for the next few months.' I'm beginning to wonder whether the pregnancy thing is written into the programme contract, thus giving the presenter a chance to re-visit the finally finished house and meet little Poppy or Oscar. But perhaps this is going too far, even for television. Or is it?


Comedy Goddess said...

Wow. I thought this was a uniquely American issue, to feature young, wealthy and clueless people re-doing their homes on TV. But what's this? You have shoulder length hair?!? And just who are Poppy and Oscar?

Rob Inukshuk said...

I've long been a fan of the home improvement type shows and have found a whole lot more over here.

Now while I whole heartedly agree with you, I must point out not all the shows have the pregnant couple thing going on, sometimes it's the host of the show who does the pregnant thing. Sarah Beany springs to mind and there are a few here who also keep doing it.

Who decided this was a good format?

punk in writing said...

The participants on Grand Designs seem to have some idea of what they're getting into.

We have a great new show over here where a team of builders knock some sense into people who've bought an old house "because they saw the beauty of its potential and wanted something of their own".

Who moves to a rundown house with no heat, no bathroom or kitchen when you've got two kids?

I loved the part where the couple were told just how long it's gonna take to renovate an entire house on their own. Research, people!

Derrick said...

Hi Chris,

I'm a sucker for these programmes too! And to support Rob, even Kirsty has a 'bump' in evidence much of the time!

But I notice you're not going totally downmarket - Farrow and Ball??!!

Just make sure you and the missus know what you're doing!

Raph G. Neckmann said...

I hadn't thought about the child-on-the-way scenario until you mentioned it - but yes, it has happened in so many of these programmes I have seen!

I find the 'de-cluttering' type of house programme amusing to watch, especially seeing the sort of things people collect. It's rather sad when they have to get rid of them all, though ...

Madame DeFarge said...

It must be the nesting instinct. Which overcomes all us ladies when we see run down piles of stones and imagine that it would look lovely in terracotta.

I'm a Craig and Rose woman myself.

chris hale said...

CG - Yes, lots of hair! I'm rebelling against thirty years of short haired-ness (if such a word exists). Oh, and Poppy and Oscar - favoured names for children of the Chattering Classe.

Rob - You're right about Ms Beeny. The episodes are usually a mish mash of previously recorded footage, so her pregnancies appear and disappear throughout the show! As for whether the format is a good idea, it is the zeitgeist of the here and now, but will no doubt be supplanted by celebrity bonsai hypnotism or some such in due course.

Punky - you're right about GD; the folk do, at least, have a clue. My new house needs a fair bit of stuff doing but I have adult children (!) who are happy as long s the internet is up and running!

Derrick - I'm not sure whether I've ever known what I've been doing; Mrs. H. is far more switched on. I have this nice otherworld filled with fluffy bunnies and...but that's for another post!

Raph - I've tried decluttering, but I always find it so hard to kiss anything goodbye. The longer you have an item, the harder it is to let it go...even if you haven't used it or even seen it for years!

MDF - Didn't John Prescott once say that it nice to be back on Terra Cotta after a trip on a plane? And weren't Craig and Rose the decorating world's answer to Peter and Gordon? But I'm sure you're nowhere near the age to remember the latter pair!

Jeane said...

the designer homes always feel dead to me - where is the clutter of everyday life that makes it ours?

chris hale said...

Jeane - Our clutter says a lot about who we are. Most of my 'clutter' is books in vast quantities. Not sure what it's like in the US, but here people fill their garages with 'stuff' and leave their expensive cars on the driveway.